Smart Money Podcast – Moving Could Benefit You: Budgeting for a Brighter, Safer Future in the LGBTQ+ Community

Learn how moving could benefit you if you feel compelled to relocate due to safety concerns — and how to budget for a sudden move.
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Written by Sean Pyles
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Edited by Kevin Berry
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Co-written by Alieza Durana
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Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions. In this episode:

Learn how moving could benefit you if you feel compelled to relocate due to safety concerns — and how to budget for a sudden move.

How do you financially and emotionally prepare for relocating due to safety concerns?

What are the financial impacts of such a forced move?

Hosts Sean Pyles and Alieza Durana discuss their experiences planning finances for relocations to help you understand the complex challenges faced by individuals seeking safer environments, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community.

Alieza begins by interviewing G Chesler, a non-binary trans person, about their move from Washington DC to Portland, Oregon, providing valuable insight into the necessity of finding a supportive community, navigating healthcare and identity respect, and the emotional relief of living in an affirming environment. Their conversation reveals the deep emotional impact of living in a state that does not recognize or respect one's gender identity, the struggles with accessing appropriate healthcare and the powerful sense of belonging found in a more accepting community.

Then, Alieza speaks with Lindsey Young, founder of the LGBTQ+ focused financial planning and investment management services firm Quiet Wealth, about the financial aspects of relocating for safety. They discuss creating a relocation financial plan, managing the costs associated with a sudden move and the importance of building a supportive community in the new location. They also focus on how to minimize income loss, budget for moving expenses and strategically utilize debt. This episode addresses two pressing issues for the LGBTQ+ community: the urgency of relocating due to hostile environments and the strategies to mitigate the financial strain that accompanies such a move.

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Have a money question? Text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at [email protected]. To hear previous episodes, go to the podcast homepage.

Episode transcript

This transcript was generated from podcast audio by an AI tool.

Sean Pyles:

There are lots of reasons you might choose to move. A new job, a desire to live in a different part of the country or world. But for some people it doesn't feel like a choice. They're moving because their states, their neighbors have made them feel unwelcome and even unsafe.

Today we're looking at the financial ramifications of moving, because as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, sometimes it's not an option to stay put. Welcome to NerdWallet's Smart Money Podcast. I'm Sean Pyles.

Alieza Durana:

And I'm Alieza Durana.

Sean Pyles:

Alieza, welcome to the host chair here at Smart Money.

Alieza Durana:

Thanks so much, Sean. Glad to be here.

Sean Pyles:

Well, today addressing a difficult decision that some members of the LGBTQ+ community have to face: whether to move to another state because of laws that are unfriendly or even hostile to them. This decision can cause a lot of financial upheaval while they search for safety. Alieza, you came to us a while ago with the idea for this episode. Can you share with us a bit about why?

Alieza Durana:

Absolutely, Sean. This is a personal decision my family is facing in Utah. In January, we had a sober conversation with close friends about the safety of our queer Latina family in our current political climate. G, who you'll meet shortly, offered us their home in Portland if we ever needed to make a quick exit from the state.

Sean Pyles:

Well, Alieza, I'm really sorry to hear that you and your family are facing such a difficult decision in the place that you've called home. And unfortunately we know that your situation isn't unique in today's political climate.

Alieza Durana:

And Sean, there are statistics to back up the needs some LGBTQ+ people have to move. In just the last two years, the number of states banning gender-affirming care has jumped from four to 25. That's half of US states. Two thirds of states have laws that use a person's HIV positive status to penalize certain activities.

And a 2024 Washington Post analysis of FBI crime data showed quadrupling hate crimes in K-12 schools in response to restrictive laws. My wife and I now have a child whose safety at school is at the top of our minds. A survey back in 2017 by NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that threats, harassment and violence were reported as a part of everyday life by more than half the LGBTQ+ community. So the idea that many in our community feel they have no choice but to move isn't surprising.

Sean Pyles:

It's certainly not. All right, well we want to hear what you think too, listeners, to share your stories and ideas with us, leave us a voicemail or text the Nerd hotline at (901) 730-6373. That's (901)-1730 N-E-R-D, or email a voice memo to [email protected]. So Alieza, where do we start today?

Alieza Durana:

To set the scene, we're speaking to a dear friend of mine who did exactly this. They moved away from a place where they felt unwelcome. I met G Chesler at a yoga retreat in Shenandoah, Virginia. We quickly realized we were neighbors in Washington DC and had been attending the same concerts and movie theaters for years.

G uses they/them pronouns and is a filmmaker and professor. We happily fell into a friendship, which became especially important to me as I came out to my family and got married to my wife, Haley. My family, unfortunately couldn't handle it and coming out resulted in an estrangement from certain members of my family of origin.

Around that same time, G began their own transition and came out as non-binary. Unfortunately, they also faced cruelty and rejection from their family of origin. As hard as that was, our friendship helped me get through that difficult time. In March of 2020, my wife and I moved from my hometown of Washington DC, to her home state of Utah, to be closer to her family who generously welcomed our love.

So as unusual as it may sound, my adopted family in Utah absolutely provided us a refuge and support away from my father's bigotry and cruelty to start over. Not long after, G and their partner moved from DC to Portland, Oregon. We'll hear about that decision in our conversation to come. G, so glad to have you here on Smart Money.

G Chesler:

Oh, thanks Alieza for welcoming me to the program.

Alieza Durana:

Could you tell us a little bit about what inspired your recent move?

G Chesler:

Yeah, sure. I mean, it's long and complicated. It intersects with disability and gender and the Covid pandemic. In short, I have a position that allows me to work remotely because I am disabled and I was working remotely from Washington DC to my university in Virginia. And it was Covid times. DC was a city that was impacted in so many different ways, particularly overlapping with the administration.

I had transitioned gender publicly and I had asked my employer in Virginia to change my pronouns in my records because whenever I go to the doctor or deal with my retirement accounts, I was having a lot of difficulty because my gender was reflecting my gender assigned at birth. And in my personal life, I was just having trouble navigating spaces.

I just felt like as a trans person with a trans partner, I would be better served living in an environment where my gender was understood, where I could have healthcare providers understand my pronouns and not question them. And we started thinking together about where that might be.

Alieza Durana:

Wow, it sounds so incredibly difficult, the things that we take for granted of being recognized and affirmed and being able to access services that had become so challenging and scary in some ways for you, especially crossing those borders between DC and Virginia and the benefits and protections that they offered you or didn't.

Are there any other specific events that prompted you to say, I need to move to another state? Is there anything else about your experience living in Washington DC as a trans person that was really significant for you?

G Chesler:

I mean, I know a lot of queer folks in DC. I know several trans people in DC. But it never felt like the majority, right? It never felt like I was part of the fabric of a community as a trans person, as a non-binary trans person, which is how I identify. But ultimately one of the deciding factors was when my employer told me that my pronouns might confuse my retirement holder, TIAA-CREF, if they really changed them in the records. That took me back. It was so strange.

It was like, wait, what are you saying about my retirement account right now? So on the financial side, that was a big red flag to me. The other one was that the state refused to change my pronouns even though I have a DC driver's license with an X marker, but they just wouldn't do it. And they were like, well, you could take it up with the state diversity office or what have you.

And I just thought, I'm not going to be that case, am I? I tried to find other colleagues in the LGBTQ group who were having similar challenges. I couldn't find them, and around the time I had transitioned publicly, I had come to Portland and I walk into a cafe and there's a sign on the register that says, please use they/them pronouns for all employees unless they tell you otherwise, and we'll do the same for you.

Please feel free to tell us what your pronouns are. It was like, wait, what? And then I went to the work event. Everybody has their pronouns on their name tags. The bathrooms are not gendered. It was like, oh, this actually is a reality that exists elsewhere. I am a reality elsewhere.

Alieza Durana:

All of the hoops that you are being made to jump through just to exist, they were suddenly gone, it sounds like.

G Chesler:

Yeah, they were already set up. They were already in the future. I often talk about Virginia as a place of the past and certainly I have a lot of privilege as a white person working there, but that state has quite a legacy of enslavement and of white supremacy and of hetero patriarchy.

I remember being hired to teach in Virginia and my colleague's like, "You're going to help change things here." And I believe that I do as a remote educator, but I do get to work from a place where I feel seen and safe and in community.

Alieza Durana:

Absolutely. Were there any primary financial concerns that came up for you when you were thinking about your move or leaving Virginia and DC and going to Portland? If you wouldn't mind speaking to that.

G Chesler:

While I'm a university educator, I'm also a student loan holder, and so at the time of my hopes to move, I still had my student loan. I also had owned an apartment in DC and I was attempting to sell it at a time when people were not living and working in DC as readily as they had once lived and worked because it was the pandemic.

So the challenge I was facing was living in a city where folks who might want to buy my apartment or condo were not readily available. And I had to wait about nine months to be able to sell that condo at a profit, which meant I was living with my partner across town so that people could come and go and see my place whenever they needed.

And I just found that one of the primary things that supported the move was community. I did have queer community in DC, I did have specifically one or two people who really wanted this to work out for me, even though they were sad to say goodbye. So having community to support the move was one element financially. There were just a lot of expenses we had to figure out like where are we driving, where are we flying? Finding a shipping company that we could trust, deciding on all the ways to get your things across the country. It involved a lot of steps and it involved a lot of expense.

Alieza Durana:

That makes a lot of sense, especially moving so far. So switching gears a little bit back to when you stepped foot in Portland and people had their pronouns and there were places for you to use the restroom, just like basic human rights that were being fulfilled for you in this new space, can you tell us what your experience has been like living in Oregon now for several years? How has it affected your quality of life?

G Chesler:

There's no way to describe the sense of calm and peace that I've experienced when I don't feel like my existence as a trans person is a question. And for me as a disabled person, the care that I receive in western healthcare systems and then non-western healthcare systems, I need to be seen in my full humanity to be actually cared for.

And data shows that trans people are less likely to see physicians. So I've moved to a place where I have experienced some discomfort from some physicians, but I don't have to see that person anymore because there's so many options. And that's been a primary shift. Seeing a queer therapist or a queer psychiatrist for my medications or queer and trans body workers, it's so different.

Alieza Durana:

And what a relief to not anticipate an experience of discomfort or discrimination or yeah, that refusal that you've encountered so often in the past. I'm wondering if you just wouldn't mind commenting on if you hadn't felt so welcome and at home in Portland, do you feel that because it has been so welcoming that it's been worth, let's say, the financial sacrifice of moving? Do you feel that the cost was ultimately worth it and how might that have been different at a different place?

G Chesler:

Yeah, I think I'm a strange person in that I really like moving. It's always been worth it to me to move. I really love meeting new people. I love what new spaces have offered me in my life, but I didn't think I was going to leave DC. I was like, oh, DC, I was almost there for 10 years. It felt like home. I had so many solid friendships. I had a chosen family.

I would move to Portland in a second again, even given the expense. It's been really helpful to move to a place where things cost less. I feel like I already save. I save 10% on everything that I spend because Portland doesn't have a sales tax. So right away I'm making a financial savings. The cost of housing here is less. There's lots of public services that are readily available. Public transit works day to day. There's just a lot less.

There's also exchange networks. People are really sharing food. They're growing food in their gardens and they're sharing it. They're making things for each other and trading and I have become part of networks of trade for food and services, things like that, that I'm stunned exist.

It's nice to live in a place where people really are in community with each other, where they have time, they take the time they need to live a good life. So I think there's things that you can't put a dollar value on, but when you start seeing your savings increase, you realize, wow, that very difficult, challenging move I had to spend a year honestly preparing for and saving for and figuring out was worth it.

Alieza Durana:

I know that you mentioned that you're working remotely. How has your job or career impacted? Would you mind just describing for our audience? Did that affect your salary at all?

G Chesler:

Yeah, so I've heard of folks who move from one city to another whose employers say that they will adjust their salary for the new cost of living in a new city. I know that exists. Where I am employed, I am already underpaid by about 20% of what I should earn because of gender parity issues at my employer. And I say that being the only non-binary person I know at my employer, but at my rank of professor. But there are significant gender parity issues that existed at my hiring and then my position. So yeah, so that's one of the things.

Before I moved, I made sure that I had a remote work agreement that my employer had signed. I also have disability accommodations which allow for remote work. So I have two layers of protection for this decision as well as being a tenured professor, which has another layer of protection. I've created online curricula since I got here. So what I'm doing is also using my new strength as an online educator to benefit the department because I feel like a lot of the students that I work with have part-time, full-time jobs, have families or are trans and also don't want to come into the classroom environment or are disabled and want to learn remotely.

I've found that a lot of the students that I'm now serving kind of parallel my own experience. Where I work, I wouldn't have had a bathroom within a quarter mile of my actual physical office that I would use. The only gender-neutral bathroom that I could use was four buildings away on a big campus.

So I was also deciding as a trans person, as a gender non-binary person, what does an accessible workplace look like for me? But anyway, working remotely has been secured on several levels and I wouldn't have moved without that protection. So that was important to get into place and it took several months to prepare as well.

Alieza Durana:

My final question for today is just what advice would you have for someone who feels that they might need to make a similar move but are looking at their financial situation and wondering if it's possible or not? It sounds like you found it really rewarding and you took a lot of steps to get there, but if you wouldn't mind just elaborating a little bit.

G Chesler:

Yeah, I think that the primary question to ask is do you want it to be better? Do you want to at least try to make it better, to really believe that you deserve it, that you deserve to feel secure or that your child deserves to feel secure and what is it going to cost to make that happen? There are lots of pieces that have to fall into place.

They can be hard to put together, but you deserve it and you're worth it and your child is worth it. So okay, number one, accept that. Number two, find a network. Build a network. I was moving to a place where I knew two people who said they had my back. So they were like, my first plan was I moved to an Airbnb for two months.

That was a very expensive choice. And also I knew it's what I needed to land comfortably and quickly for an amount of time I believed I needed to find permanent housing. So that was a primary expense upfront. So in preparation for that Airbnb move, I lived with other folks rent-free for two months to be able to pay for that move. Knowing when your income is going to replenish is a big question as well.

Alieza Durana:

Well, G, thank you so much for joining us today. Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you want to mention about your move or this topic or experience before we wrap up?

G Chesler:

I think it's worth it to say the words out loud and to see it as a possibility that moving could benefit you. There's a strange amount of shame that's projected on people who decide to move. It's almost like you're giving up or you're running away, but my goodness, you are so not running away. You really are moving towards the knowledge that it's not going to be perfect, but it can be better.

And I know that phrase is really loaded, it can be better, but when you find your community or you find that everyday ease of life and it happens bit by bit by bit, it makes it feel right, it makes it feel worth it, and it makes me know that I'm worth it. As a trans non-binary person, I get to live in a community that sees me, that is me, that includes members of my community. My community is full of trans people. And so it does exist right here in the U.S. And when you are in community, you then can heal and renew your power.

Alieza Durana:

Well, beautifully put G. thank you so much for joining us today.

G Chesler:

Thanks for these questions and for sharing this information. I really hope that what I've said can help some folks see their way.

Alieza Durana:

I think it absolutely will.

Sean Pyles:

I can really relate to G's experience of discovering a new level of belonging when you move to a place that has more people who are just like you. It reminds me of when I moved to San Francisco after college and I realized suddenly that there were a lot more gay men in the world than I'd ever truly realized.

And it made me feel part of a community and a lot less like an outsider. With that comes a sense of safety and just ease in your day-to-day life that's really hard to find elsewhere.

Alieza Durana:

I can too, and it's something I long for now. You mentioned not feeling safe around our neighbors and coincidentally just last week, our HOA announced a new policy recommending neighbors call the police on anyone who, “looks out of place” in an effort to deter burglaries.

We're challenging the policy, but it's particularly scary for my family because we are different and we're also a multiracial family. So my wife and I are thinking about moving again, but it's a big, hard and expensive decision.

Sean Pyles:

Yeah, I'm so sorry that you're dealing with that, Alieza. That's really rough. And unfortunately your experience and G's are not unique in today's day and age. And there's a lot to think about if someone is feeling like they need to make a similar move and there can be real financial costs on top of the mental and emotional cost of feeling like you have to move out of necessity.

Alieza Durana:

That's for sure. So now we're going to hear from Lindsey Young. She's the founder of Quiet Wealth, an investment advisor and a financial planning firm primarily serving LGBTQ+ households. Lindsey goes by the pronouns she/her, and we're going to get some advice for how to prepare for this eventuality should it become necessary.

Sean Pyles:

That's coming up in a moment. Stay with us.

Alieza Durana:

Lindsey Young, so glad you could join us on Smart Money today.

Lindsey Young:

Thanks. Pleasure to be here.

Alieza Durana:

Could you tell us if you have any stories you can share about clients who have gone through this as a financial planner and investment manager?

Lindsey Young:

I actually have worked with a couple of clients who have decided that they didn't feel safe where they wanted to leave and they engage with me in order to come up with a plan to move to somewhere else, but also make sure that they weren't falling behind financially when they were making that move.

Alieza Durana:

Could you share a little bit about what were some of the primary financial concerns in those situations? What were you helping your client plan for?

Lindsey Young:

So I'll talk about a specific situation of a client who was a nurse practitioner. She was living in a red state and did not feel comfortable living in that state anymore given the legislative developments in that state. And so she identified, first of all, where she wanted to move to. And her situation was she had actually bought a house a couple of years before this, and so she still had a very large mortgage.

In addition, she still had a lot of student loan debt that she was dealing with as well. And so finances between paying for student loans as well as paying for the mortgage finances were very tight. And so part of the reason that she engaged me was to come up with a financial plan to make sure that she actually wasn't going to just run out of money from the move.

So I worked with her over the course of about four or five months or so all the way from the time when she decided that she was going to do this through selling the house, through the move and then through actually getting to where she is living right now and she's made a very successful transition.

Alieza Durana:

So it sounds like housing and employment are maybe two of the concerns that come up typically as people consider moving. You mentioned owning a house. What are some top steps that you would advise people to think about as they prepare financially for this kind of life change?

Lindsey Young:

So the first thing I think is to first figure out where you're going to go because that's going to determine a lot of things. And I think that there's a couple of different variables to think about. One is job opportunities. Given your field, are there going to be jobs that you can do there and you should be checking and seeing how many opportunities are there, go onto job boards and see if there's opportunities that are going to be there.

The second thing is cost of living. Keep in mind that particularly relative to a lot of red states, blue states, particularly in areas that are more progressive, tend to be fairly expensive. So you actually may need to make more money in the place that you're going to live than what you're currently making right now. And then the final factor is to consider an existing network of friends and family of where you're going to go to.

Having an existing network is a huge benefit as opposed to going to some place where you know no one. And so you factor all three of those things into determining where to go. Once you know where to go, that can start to build a plan because you can start to figure out, okay, what's the cost going to be to move there? What are my costs going to be once I'm living there? And those are very important factors in developing an overall financial plan going forward after the move.

Alieza Durana:

I wonder, how is your advice the same or different if you have some time to prepare versus someone who feels that they have to move suddenly due to safety concerns?

Lindsey Young:

Yes, absolutely, and I do recommend if you can even take a week or two to develop a plan, it can save you a lot of money as opposed to just leaving one day. A couple of big things that can happen when you take action before planning is that you don't necessarily set goals for yourself in terms of trying to reduce the amount of cost from the move.

Even taking a week or two to develop a plan for that is really important. Sometimes it's unavoidable, for safety reasons you feel like you have to move in fairly short order. So I think a couple key things. One, really try to minimize the time that you're not working. When you move there, you're probably not going to have a job set up. Get any job, just try to start bringing in income to minimize the loss from the move, to get working.

Also, minimize expenses, opt for a relatively cheap and flexible housing option going forward rather than trying to kind of plant roots immediately. Look for kind of interim solutions that provide flexibility. Those would be some of the things that I'd probably offer advice on if someone feels like they need to move immediately.

Alieza Durana:

This question may seem kind of basic for members of the community, but I'm wondering for allies, if you could just talk about what are some of the challenges that the LGBTQ+ population is facing that is different from other people in the country right now and that's sort of inspiring a desire to move?

Lindsey Young:

There's a lot of laws that are being passed that are not friendly. Everything from bathroom bills to taking away trans-affirming healthcare. These are really, really tough laws that are getting passed, especially for members of the transgender community. I myself am transgender and so it's very painful to see what's going on in red states.

And so I completely understand the need to move and it is just really painful to see the actions that are taking place in a lot of state legislatures these days. Hopefully you do have some credit cards available, and look, for this type of thing, in terms of making this move happen, I'm completely okay with people taking out debt if they need to move quickly and go somewhere else.

However, if you're going to do that, before you take out the debt and before you do the move, hopefully, you should really create a plan, a budget on a month by month basis for how you're going to pay back that debt over the next two years. And keep in mind, it's not just the expenses of the move, it's the fact that you're going to have lost income for a certain amount of time because of the move.

It's inevitable. It could be a couple of weeks, it could turn into a couple of months. There is going to be lost income there. And what you're trying to do is minimize that gap and really set a goal for how much of a loss you're going to have during that gap period. And then come up with a plan where within a year or two you've paid back all the debt that you had to take out in order to make the move.

Alieza Durana:

What about any non-monetary steps that might be helpful in preparation for a move? You mentioned connecting with community, including your family of origin or chosen family, whatever, whoever's important to you. Could you talk a little bit more about how that can be helpful in getting to a new place?

Lindsey Young:

It's just always helpful to have a connection or two of people that you know in the community because they can introduce you to other people. There's certainly other ways to do that. There's obviously, particularly in a lot of blue states, there's lots of support organizations within the LGBTQ community.

There's pride centers. Here in Maryland, there's lots of transgender support groups if you're in the transgender community. So there's many options, and I think it's really important when you arrive in a new state, find opportunities to connect with people. It can even be connecting if you have, there's some activity that you enjoy doing.

Find ways that you can get involved in doing that activity with other people. Just start building a community there. So be proactive in really trying to find communities that you can get involved in because when you're by yourself, that is generally not a good thing either for your personal life or even for your finances, I find.

Alieza Durana:

I wonder if you have any other final advice for someone who might be living in a situation that could become unsafe because of local and state laws. Is there anything else that you haven't mentioned that you would like to say to those folks?

Lindsey Young:

The only thing I say is that I completely can understand why you might not feel comfortable living in those states. And even if it's a situation where it's not a near-term safety issue, but you just don't feel comfortable, that is completely understandable. The only thing I would recommend is that it is going to be a financial cost, generally speaking, to make that move, and incurring that cost is okay. It's really important that you create a budget to understand what that cost is and to find a way to repay that cost over time. That from a financial planning perspective is the most important thing.

Alieza Durana:

Lindsey, thank you so much for helping us out today.

Lindsey Young:

Thank you for having me on.

Sean Pyles:

My big takeaway from Lindsey's interview is that while a crisis can require immediate action, planning, even just a day of it, can help you land on your feet and make sure that your next steps are in the direction that you want to go long-term.

Alieza Durana:

But beyond planning, even if money is tight, Lindsey reminded us to seek out community and see how we can support each other through mutual aid during this difficult time. As G mentioned, we can and should imagine life can be better or at least less scary for our beautiful community.

Sean Pyles:

And this really is a difficult subject to have to talk about, much less face. So we really appreciate you bringing this to us, Alieza. I hope listeners come away with a better understanding of what some members of the LGBTQ+ community are being forced to deal with in states across the country. And if you are among them, hopefully this episode gives you some ways to cope and potentially prepare.

Alieza Durana:

Thank you, Sean. I'm really glad we were able to do this.

Sean Pyles:

And as a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I say welcome to Oregon, G.

Alieza Durana:

For now, that's all we have for this episode. Do you have a money question of your own? Turn to the Nerds and call or text us your question at (901) 730-6373. That's (901) 730 N-E-R-D. You can also email us at [email protected]. Also visit nerdwallet.com/podcast for more info on this episode. And remember to follow, rate and review us wherever you're getting this podcast.

Sean Pyles:

This episode was produced by Tess Vigeland. I helped with editing. Chris Davis helped with fact checking. Sara Brink mixed our audio and a big thank you to Nerd Wallet's editors for all their help.

Alieza Durana:

And here's our brief disclaimer. We are not financial or investment advisors. This nerdy info is provided for general educational and entertainment purposes and may not apply to your specific circumstances.

Sean Pyles:

And with that said, until next time, turn to the Nerds.